CAUTION: LONG POST ALERT
Naaman was general of the army under the king of Aram. He was important to his master, who held him in the highest esteem because it was by him that GOD had given victory to Aram: a truly great man, but afflicted with a grievous skin disease. It so happened that Aram, on one of its raiding expeditions against Israel, captured a young girl who became a maid to Naaman’s wife. One day she said to her mistress, “Oh, if only my master could meet the prophet of Samaria, he would be healed of his skin disease.””
– 2 Kings 5:1-3
Today’s story about Naaman is rife with lessons about life and about service. Naaman was a General in the Aramean army and described as ‘a truly great man’ who was not only important to his master, but was ‘held in the highest esteem….’ He appeared to be a man who not only understood the concepts of service and loyalty, but he seemed to have been humane in his dealings with others, regardless of their status and despite his status in society. This much I could pick up from the opening verses and subsequent verses in today’s reading.
If he was not approachable or humane, the slave girl from Israel, who served his wife would have hoarded the information about possible help for his ‘grievous skin disease.’ She had every reason to be bitter. She was captured from Israel during a raid by the Aramean army a free born, into slavery as maid to Naaman’s wife; it would have been a perfect reason to get resentful and disinterested in whatever was going on with her masters and their household- but she was not. She was able to approach her mistress with a solution for her husband, which ultimately led to his healing.
On their part, Gen.&Mrs. Naaman could have dismissed her talk as the ‘foolish talk of a mere slave!’ They could have scoffed at the very idea, and at worst, put her in the guard room for daring to think that an unimportant person like her, could provide the solution to the nagging problem of such a brave and great warrior in battle. Yet, they did not- they listened to her. That speaks volumes to me.
After consulting his superior officer, off goes Gen. Naaman to Israel to see the prophet. Some interesting things happen, which are worthy of note:
“Naaman lost his temper. He turned on his heel saying, “I thought he’d personally come out and meet me, call on the name of GOD, wave his hand over the diseased spot, and get rid of the disease. The Damascus rivers, Abana and Pharpar, are cleaner by far than any of the rivers in Israel. Why not bathe in them? I’d at least get clean.” He stomped off, mad as a hornet.”
– 2 Kings 5:11-12
The prophet- Elisha- did not bother to come out to receive Gen. Naaman. He sent word to him with instructions for him to go dip himself in the Jordan river 7 times. The simplicity of the instructions and the audacity of the prophet probably grated on Naaman’s nerves and he got upset. He was human after all. He stomped off in anger, ready to return to Aram, but his servants stopped him from making such a move:
“”But his servants caught up with him and said, “Father, if the prophet had asked you to do something hard and heroic, wouldn’t you have done it? So why not this simple ‘wash and be clean’?””
– 2 Kings 5:13
Again this shows his approachability and willingness to listen. The servants addressed him as ‘father,’ which is suggestive. He must have been treating them with respect and expressing fatherly concerns for them, to have earned that title. If he was a master who treated his servants with contempt, they would have kept a polite distance and he’d probably have had that disease to contend with all the days of his life- an obvious blight to his story of greatness. But again, he listened and decided to obey Prophet Elisha’s instructions and he became healed.
Elisha refused to accept any gifts from Gen. Naaman, despite all entreaties and a probably overwhelmed, but joyful General and a converted one at that, prepared to return to his hometown, after appealing to the prophet to help pray to God to forgive him, as he would be going into the pagan shrine of Rimmon, in the course of his service to his master. This speaks to me of a faithful, loyal servant. He was under command and that is why he could command others. You cannot be in authority, if you are not under authority. To lead others, you must first be led. Naaman was a faithful servant, and he served his master well. He implored the prophet:
“If you won’t take anything,” said Naaman, “let me ask you for something: Give me a load of dirt, as much as a team of donkeys can carry, because I’m never again going to worship any god other than GOD. But there’s one thing for which I need GOD ’s pardon: When my master, leaning on my arm, enters the shrine of Rimmon and worships there, and I’m with him there, worshiping Rimmon, may you see to it that GOD forgive me for this.””
– 2 Kings 5:17-18
Gen. Naaman was, however accosted by another servant – one with an ulterior motive- Gehazi. Gehazi lied to Naaman that his master needed gifts and a grateful Naaman, who had been seeking for a way to express his gratitude to the prophet, gladly gave gifts to Gehazi, and even gave him more than he demanded for. Gehazi misrepresented his boss to Naaman, just like many employees today misrepresent their brand and muddle up their sense of loyalty. Their faithfulness is only seen if their employers are within earshot. They are experts at hypocritical eye service. As Elisha’s servant, he would have known what Elisha stood for, but pushed and motivated by greed, he lied to get material benefits. We see how the story ends- with him becoming a leper. Ill-gotten wealth does not come with blessings- it comes with tons of sorrow. A heartfelt blessing from a thankful employer, goes a long way in the life of a faithful employee- it can be traded for value!
Isn’t it ironic that two people could serve a cause or a man, and one person ends up blessed, while the other wallows in curses and mediocrity all his life? The motive for service is equally as important as the service itself. I can bet that the slave girl who served Naaman’s wife, would have been rewarded on Naaman’s return. Man looks at the outward appearance, but God looks at the heart and He rewards based on the intents of our hearts. This is why we may never understand why someone, whom to all intents and purposes, is giving excellent service, but makes no meaningful progress in life. God does not look at things as they appear to be, but as they really are.
As you read this story, prayerful ask God to unmask wrong motives in your service and help you to deal with them so that you don’t beat yourself up in the guise of serving, only to end up cursed. Faithful and genuine service does not go unrewarded! As a boss too, you must treat your servants with fairness and decency, because they are also instrumental to your success story. There are responsibilities and obligations for both servants and masters, and defaulting on both sides, carry dire consequences. Check your motives regularly! UIK